Dennis Phillips emerged on the poker scene way back in 2008 when he made the first-ever WSOP November Nine final table.
He came third in the tournament for $4.5m - an amazing accomplishment in its own right - but even better he catapulted himself right into a new side career in the poker industry.
He's now a major player in the poker biz with a consutling company that works closely with PokerStars and the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Florida, among others.
Phillips popped in to EPT Prague this week for some poker and some business and kindly took some time to chat with PokerListings on a break on Day 1B of the EPT main event.
PokerListings: Dennis, you're here in Prague and you were also in Barcelona to hand over a guitar and a ticket to the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open in Florida to the EPT main event bubble boy.
Dennis Phillips: Well, I was in Barcelona but I didn’t get to play a single hand. My main reason to go was some other business.
I have a consulting company and we work closely with PokerStars and some other major companies around them.
The budding relationship between the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and PokerStars, which was initiated a few months ago, is slowly developing. We’ll see where it goes.
EPT fields always impress.
There are actually several representatives of the Seminole Hard Rock here in Prague checking out the EPT…
PL: What do they think about it?
DP: They are very impressed. No doubt about that. And hopefully there will be further relations, but I can’t divulge too much.
PL: It was in the media that PokerStars plans to cooperate with the Seminole Hard Rock. Is that going to happen?
DP: Let me say it like this: we are exploring opportunities.
When you have two multi-billion dollar companies that are both very popular and that are both trying to care about the needs of the players, you of course hope to put them together and everybody benefits.
And that is what we are trying to do.
PL: Why did you start working with the Seminole Hard Rock?
DP: I am very careful with who I work with. But the people down there impressed me.
They've had this $10 million guarantee tournament for two years now. It has not run flawlessly, but they are kind of newbies in that.
They want to improve it, they want to get better. And their ultimate goal is to do what PokerStars has done for years.
Along the lines of: If it’s good for the poker player it is good for them.
PL: They didn’t have any online qualifiers this year. Was that the reason for such a big overlay? Isn’t it a big risk to give such a huge guarantee without online qualifiers?
DP: It is. We hope that we are able to change that in the future, but with the situation in the US we have serious limitations.
That is one of the reasons why we are interested in the partnership with PokerStars. And although there are other poker rooms, no one can really compete with PokerStars.
Phillips became a sensation at 2008 WSOP final table.
It would be a beautiful marriage.
PL: You became very popular back in 2009. Did you already work in the poker business at the time?
DP: I was not in the poker business but in the business world. I own or am part of seven different businesses.
I have a wide range from a real estate company to a consulting company to a casino massage company to a truck dealership.
And I have a dairy farm in the middle of nowhere in the United States.
PL: How much money of your 2008 WSOP Main Event cash did you invest in business?
DP: Everything that I won I invested in business. Poker supports itself. If you can’t make money by playing poker you shouldn’t play poker.
Every year I make sure that my wins outstrip my losses in poker.
PL: Does it work?
DP: It has worked every year for seven years now.
PL: We also read that you are the only player who has four Top 10 finishes in big buy-in events with more than 4,000 entrants.
DP: So I was told. I've done it multiple times now. I like the big fields.
PL: You have the current World Champion Martin Jacobson at your table. Does that bring back memories of your own November Nine experience?
DP: A little bit. But I was actually on the stage when he won it and I followed him the full second day.
I was very impressed by his performance. He will be a very good ambassador for poker also.
PL: What happened to your famous fan club, with everybody dressed like you?
DP: (laughs) They didn’t come to Vegas or to Prague either. It was actually just a joke for the Main Event in 2008.
Now based in Nevada Phillips can indulge in online poker again.
But I still travel and party with them in St. Louis. I’ve known them for almost 40 years.
PL: How important is poker in your daily life?
DP: I play less poker now than I have at any time in the past 10 years. But I still love it.
It keeps my mind sharp and I still learn important things at the poker table that I can use in business life.
PL: What about online poker?
DP: I love to play online. I am now based in Nevada and I do play in rooms which operate only in Nevada.
I think that the US market is going to open again step by step, state by state. There are five key states which are really necessary for proper online gambling legislation.
California is one of them. I don’t think you’ll be able to play online next year, but I hope at least the legislation will pass sometimes next year.
It might take another year or two after that before people will finally be able to play again.